"People of the Books" Blog

2018 Reference and Bibliography Awards

The Judaica Reference and Bibliography Awards Committee decided as following regarding the Judaica Reference and Bibliography 2018 awards:


David Hollander, Legal Scholarship in Jewish Law : an Annotated Bibliography of Journal Articles (Getzville, New York : William S. Hein & Co., 2017)

Honorable Mention: Steven J. Weiss, Pirke Avot: a Thesaurus : an Annotated Bibliography of Printed Hebrew Commentaries, 1485-2015 (Los Angeles & Jerusalem : The Dr. Steven J. Weiss Collection, 2016)


Paul R Bartrop & Michael Dickerman The Holocaust: An Encyclopedia and Document Collection (Santa Barbara, CA : ABC-CLIO, 2017)

Honorable mention: Zachary M. Baker, “Resources in Yiddish Studies” published in: In Geveb : A Journal of Yiddish Studies https://ingeveb.org/tags/Resources%20in%20Yiddish%20Studies )

I would like to thank the awards’ sponsors: Dr. Greta Silver of New York City, who established the AJL Judaica Reference Award, to encourage the publication of outstanding Judaica reference works, and Eric Chaim Kline of Los Angeles, who established the AJL Judaica Bibliography Award,  to encourage the publication of outstanding Judaica bibliographies.

I would also like to thank the Committee members Amalia S. Levi, David B. Levy, Michelle Chesner and Shulamith Z Berger for their enthusiastic and thoughtful input.

Rachel Simon

AJL Elections 2018

The election of officers for 2018-2020 will take place May 1-30 this year.  All current members of AJL are eligible to vote. If your membership is not current, now is the time to renew! The election will be conducted via online ballot, using Survey Monkey.  An email message with a link to the ballot will be sent to all current AJL members. This link is tied to your email address and can only be used once.

If you need to update your email address, please see "Update your profile." After you have updated your email address, please notify Joy Kingsolver at joy.kingsolver@gmail.com, so we can make sure your ballot is sent to the correct email address.

Your vote is important to AJL!  Watch for the link to your ballot on May 1.



Vice President/President-Elect

Kathy Bloomfield

Kathy Bloomfield Kathy Bloomfield is currently the AJL President-SSC. While she has held jobs at Pacific Telephone, Pacific Bell, the Los Angeles Zoo, BabagaNewz magazine, InterfaithFamily.com, Mayyim Hayyim Community Mikveh, the Union for Reform Judaism and the Wellesley Public School System, her passion is children’s literature, especially secular literature with Jewish values content. She is the founder of forwordsbooks, a national Jewish book fair business. Currently, she is telecommuting from Seal Beach, CA to Bethesda, MD where she is the Clergy Assistant at Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation.   Her volunteer roles have included Temple President, Mikveh Guide, URJ Outreach Fellow, and member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee.


VP for Membership 

Sharon Benamou

Sharon Benamou Sharon Benamou is the Hebraica/Judaica and Music Catalog Librarian at UCLA. She has an MA in Musicology from UCLA and an MLIS from CSU San Jose. She is active in both AJL and the Music Library Association (MLA). In MLA she is the Jewish Music Interest Group coordinator and a member of the Education Committee. In AJL she has served as RAS President and Conference co-chair.

VP for Development 

Rebecca Jefferson

Rebecca Jefferson Rebecca Jefferson has been a member of AJL since 2010, and since 2012 has served as a co-editor for the Adult Reviews section of the AJL newsletter. She has served also as AJL RAS President between 2016-2018. As a librarian, Jefferson is responsible for the collection development and overall management of the Isser and Rae Price Library of Judaica at the University of Florida. Since 2015, she has been the Principle Investigator on a National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant to raise funds to refocus the Judaica Library as a regional center of excellence for Jewish resources from Florida, Latin American and the Caribbean. Jefferson holds a Ph.D. in Medieval Hebrew from the University of Cambridge. She previously worked as a research associate in Cambridge University Library where she was the bibliographer for the Cairo Genizah collections.



Nancy Sack

Nancy Sack I have been a member of AJL for the past 28 years. I've served the association as Newsletter editor, exhibits chair, conference co-chair, copy editor for JL, web slave, and secretary. I was a cataloger at Northwestern University for nine years before moving to Hawaii 17 years ago to work at the university.



Holly Zimmerman

Holly Zimmerman I joined AJL in 2014 and served as treasurer for the Capital Area Chapter of AJL for three years, then became National Treasurer at last year’s Conference. I work as a senior research editor at AARP Media, factchecking content for AARP The Magazine, the Bulletin, the web, and special projects. I have a strong interest in Jewish libraries, though my work is outside this field. I’m married, live in Silver Spring, Maryland, and have three grown children, who are in Baltimore, Los Angeles, and Givat Shmuel.


RAS President

Michelle Chesner

Michelle Chesner Michelle Chesner is the Norman E. Alexander Librarian for Jewish Studies at Columbia University.  She is currently the Council Member-at-Large at AJL, and is the co-Director of Footprints: Jewish Books Through Time and Place, a digital project that tracks the movement of Jewish books in the hand-press period.  She adapted “Codex Conquest: The Game of Book History” to create a Jewish book version, which teaches about the history of important Jewish imprints through the 19th century.  Ms. Chesner is passionate about the past and future of Judaica libraries, and is working on various projects in this area. She compiled the first systematic list of digital humanities projects in Jewish Studies, and is the editor of a column reviewing digital humanities projects for Judaica Librarianship. She is a co-convener of the Northeast Judaica Librarians Group, and was the Programming Chair of the New York City Conference in 2017.  Chesner’s degrees are from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Long Island University, and New York University.


RAS Vice President (2 candidates)

Rachel Ariel

Rachel Ariel Born and raised in Israel, Rachel Ariel studied History, Political Science and Education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Jewish Studies at the Hebrew College in Boston. Upon coming to North Carolina in 1994, Rachel became one of the two founding teachers of the new Jewish Community Day School of Durham-Chapel Hill (The Lerner School).  Rachel taught Jewish studies and Hebrew and served as Director of Jewish Studies and as the interim Head of School. 

Since 2006 Rachel is the Subject Librarian for Jewish and Israel Studies at Perkins Library, Duke University.  Rachel has curated two exhibits at Duke Libraries; “Illustrating the Hebrew Bible” (2010) and “Capturing the Moment: Centuries of the Passover Haggadah” (2016)


Amalia Levi

Amalia Levi  Amalia S. Levi is an archivist and cultural heritage professional currently residing in Barbados. She is the founding director of The HeritEdge Connection, a non-profit organization dedicated to forging collaborations, connecting people, resources, and institutions through cultural heritage projects. Most recently, Amalia has teamed with the Barbados Archives and was awarded an Endangered Archives Programme grant through the British Library to digitize the historic newspaper The Barbados Mercury. Previously, she completed the archival processing and digitization of the records of the Synagogue Restoration Project in Bridgetown, Barbados. Amalia holds an MLS with a concentration in Archives, and an M.A. in History with a concentration in Jewish Studies, both from the University of Maryland; an M.A. in Museum Studies from Yildiz University in Istanbul, Turkey; and a B.A. in Archaeology and History of Art from the University of Athens, Greece. She has worked in museums, developing exhibits, and conducting archival research, and was the founding curator of the Jewish Museum of Turkey in Istanbul. She is co-editor of the book Identity Palimpsests: Archiving Ethnicity in the U.S. and Canada, and author of the book Evanescent Happiness: Ottoman Jews Encounter Modernity - The Case of Lea Mitrani and Joseph Niego (1863-1923). Amalia is interested in augmenting historical scholarship on diasporas and underrepresented populations through linking and enriching dispersed collections through Linked Data principles and collections-as-data approaches.  


SSC President

Emily Bergman

Emily Bergman Emily Bergman has been a librarian for over 40 years and has volunteered to run her congregtional library for the past 23 years as her gift to the temple.  She served for 5 years as the AJL representative to the ALA Sophie Brody Award committee, which annually recognizes the best in adult, Jewish books for the general reader.
Emily’s paid work has included corporate, public, hospital, musuem, and academic libraries.  She has been very active in ALA for the past 35 years as well as local and other national library-related organizations.  Her work at the temple allows her to take her varied experience to benefit all aspects of her temple library and add working with children, her best customers.


SSC Vice President 

Ellen Share

Ellen Share Ellen Share holds an MLS degree from the University of Maryland at College Park.  She has worked for over 30 years as the librarian at Washington Hebrew Congregation-managing two libraries at the Temple in Washington, D.C. and one library at the Julia Bindeman Suburban Center in Potomac, MD.  Ellen sees students of all ages in the library and strives to reinforce the religious school curriculum with their visits.  For the adults in the congregation, she plans a yearly Jewish Book Month Shabbat celebration and runs an active adult book club which meets four times yearly.  She has been active in the Association of Jewish Libraries and the local Capital Area Chapter. She was Co-Chair of 2015 Jubilee Conference.   Ellen has given presentations at AJL Annual  Conference,  reviews  books  regularly for AJL Review, and served on the Scholarship Committee. She is passionate about fostering a love of reading books of Jewish interest among the young and old in the congregation.

Special post-conference Amherst Tour

Join AJL for a special post-conference field trip to Amherst. Tours will include a choice of the Michelson Gallery or Schoen books on Wednesday, then the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art and the Yiddish Book Center on Thursday.

AJL Trip Itinerary to Amherst, MA—June 20-21, 2018

Wednesday, June 20


2:30 pm

Bus leaves Temple Israel, Brookline

4:15 pm

4:15 – 4:45







Bus arrives at historic inn and tavern, Hotel Northampton,

Check in to hotel http://www.hotelnorthampton.com/

4:45 – 6:45 pm










Walk to Michelson Galleries, Northampton, MA

http://www.rmichelson.com  Private tour of gallery by Rich!.

Wine and hors d’oeuvres. Possible artist/author appearance

Michelson galleries










Visit to https://schoenbooks.com

Transportation from hotel and kosher dinner provided by Ken Schoen!

6:45 pm



Dinner on your own in quaint and historic Northampton

(Kosher meals can be ordered in advance--there is no kosher restaurant within walking distance)

Thursday, June 21


7:00 – 9:00 am

9:30 am

10:00 – 11:30 am


11:30 – 1:00 pm









Free continental breakfast available in hotel

Board bus to travel to Amherst, 20 minutes

Arrive at Eric Carle Museum, private tour


Eric Carle Museum

1:00 pm








Walk to nearby Yiddish Book Center, private tour



Yiddish book center

 3:00-3:30 pm



Board bus, sack lunches provided for bus ride back to Boston

Arrive back to Holiday Inn, Brookline or other pre-arranged location in Boston, to be decided according to request



Single or Double Room

2 day bus transportation

Thursday lunch

Two entrance fees

Pre-Pay TOTAL:

$155 plus tax, paid to hotel, call them to request AJL rate




$186, paid by check to Lisa Silverman, by April 15 to reserve spot

Contact trip planner


Lisa Silverman lisa.silverman@aju.edu

Download itinerary


2018 Winners of Jewish Fiction Award

The Association of Jewish Libraries Announces 2018 Winners of Jewish Fiction Award

Rachel Kadish is the inaugural winner of the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) Jewish Fiction Award for her novel The Weight of Ink, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The award includes a $1,000 cash prize as well as support to attend the 53rd Annual Conference of the Association of Jewish Libraries in Boston, MA, June 18-20, 2018. Two honor books were also recognized: Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan by Ruth Gilligan, published by Tin House Books, and A Boy in Winter by Rachel Seiffert, published by Pantheon Books, part of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. The Committee received over 50 works of fiction with significant Jewish thematic content, written in English and available in the United States in 2017, and thanks all those who submitted entries for consideration. The wide array of books published this year is a testament to the vibrant state of contemporary Jewish fiction.

“Rachel Kadish has crafted an extraordinary cast of characters who speak to each other within and across the divides of centuries as well as those of age, religion, and class and come vividly to life under her empathic touch,” notes Yermiyahu Ahron Taub, Chairperson of the Award Committee. “This is a book that honors learning, libraries, archivists and librarians, and the Association of Jewish Libraries Jewish Fiction Award Committee is delighted to present Kadish with the 2018 AJL Jewish Fiction Award.”

Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan gives serious depth to the little-known story of Jewish life in Ireland. Weaving a complex story, Ruth Gilligan uses the specifics of Irish lore and history woven with the Jewish experience to illuminate the stories of a young girl and her family who emigrate from eastern Europe, a suddenly mute boy incarcerated in a home for the mentally disabled, and a woman who considers the implications of converting to Judaism. According to Taub, “Gilligan's expert twists of plot, exploration of historical themes, and her gift of word play and dark humor” impressed the Committee.

Rachel Seiffert's A Boy in Winter works on a small canvas and creates a searing emotional impact. As the Nazis invade a small Ukrainian town, a variety of characters are forced to face the invasion's terrible consequences and quickly make life-altering decisions. Taub comments: “Seiffert writes with spareness, a plain-hewn power that draws the reader on a journey of suspense in a time and place of limited possibility.”

The Association of Jewish Libraries gratefully acknowledges the generous support of Dan Wyman Books for underwriting the Award. Submissions for the 2019 AJL Fiction Award are now being accepted. For more information, please visit www.jewishlibraries.org.

Member Spotlight with Esther van Haaren-Hart

Our Member of the Month is Esther van Haaren-Hart of Curaçao.

Amalia Warshenbrot and Esther van Haaren-Hart

Amalia Warshenbrot and Esther van Haaren-Hart, 2017.

Esther van Haaren-Hart is the librarian and general manager of the Foundation at the Maduro Library and Museum housed in the plantation house at Rooi Catootje in Curaçao, Dutch Caribbean.

The foundation is named after Salomon Abraham (Mongui) Levy Maduro (1891-1967) who started collecting documents, books, manuscripts, archivalia and periodicals relating to Curaçao, the Dutch West Indies and his Sephardic Jewish community which goes back to the 17th century. One of the goals of the foundation is to preserve historical collections on subjects of Sephardic Jewish and Dutch Caribbean interest for future research.

The library collection consists of more than 10,000 books, 450 documentation files by subject, containing newspaper clippings and more than one thousand Antillean and Jewish periodicals, collected over a period of more than 100 years. Due to the growth of the collection, the library collection was moved to a state of the art new building, the Ena Dankmeijer-Maduro Pavilion, in 2010. Throughout the years, a wide variety of writers, historians, elementary school students and researchers have consulted the library collection. The library cooperates closely with other academic libraries, both in Curaçao and abroad.

Mrs. van Haaren-Hart is a mother of three and grandmother of one.  She attended the 2017 AJL conference, commenting:

“I enjoyed this well organized 52nd conference. There was a great variety in themes, the sessions were well planned and well prepared by the speakers. Networking with participants of so many countries and places in the USA was one of the highlights of the conference. I was very pleased to meet some old library friends and to make new ones. In general I consider the information about digitized materials, many of them online available, as another highlight of the conference.”

Esther plans to continue to communicate with AJL in the future to exchange ideas and information on a global scale and to be able to access information through application of advanced technologies

Esther welcomes AJL members and friends to visit her library’s website at www.madurolibrary.org to get acquainted with the library and the museum collection. Esther encourages all to visit the island and the facilities in person, like so many Jewish groups have done in the past and are still doing.